Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Indy Eleven vs Louisville City FC - 06.37 - USL Playoffs (Conference Final)

- Opponent: Louisville City FC
- Location: Indianapolis
- Attendance: 7,171
- Final Score: 1-3 L
- Starting XI: Farr, Hackshaw, Barrett (C), Ouimette, Gibson, Walker, Conner, Ayoze, King, Pasher, Kelly
- Substitutions: Watson 68' (Conner), Novoa 83' (Kelly); Starikov 98' (Walker); Ilic 98' (King)
- Unused: Brown, Osmond, Perea
- Goals: Pasher 67' (assist Kelly)
- Bookings: Barrett 45'+1' (Yellow); Ouimette 90'+2' (Yellow); Hackshaw 102' (Yellow); Watson 119' (Yellow)
- Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
- Adage goals: Two

I said it in my review of the semi-final game against Nashville. If you want to be the King, you have to beat the King. Until somebody proves otherwise, Louisville City is the King of the Eastern Conference. Five straight Eastern Conference finals and now three straight league finals. They are now in a stretch of not having lost a playoff game in 3 years. Yet...

Indy was close to taking down the King. The bubble popped 3 minutes and 4 seconds into a questionably allotted 4-minute stoppage time when LCFC's Hoppenot took a first-time rip at the ball off of a corner kick that took some nice turf bounces over the head of a falling Barrett and under the right arm of Farr who had been going to his left. It's the kind of cruel goal that changes momentum.

It's the kind of goal that keeps the King on his throne and the rest of the conference wondering what it's going to take to remove him from it.

With momentum fully shifted to LCFC after an early goal in extra time by Rasumussen, Indy was forced to throw attackers into the game as Starikov and Ilic were brought into the game in place of Kelly and King. When Spencer scored an insurance goal from the spot in the 113th minute, all that was really left was for the clock to wind down. The King doesn't give up a two-goal lead that late in the game, even playing on the road.

The moderate upside for Indy is that for long stretches of the game, they looked like the better team. Possession may be 9/10th of the law, but neither team seemed to be able to have it for any extended duration. Louisville was shown to have the final possession edge at a nearly 60/40 ratio, but Indy seemed to do more with their possession than did LCFC. They had more shots and shots on target. Jordan Farr wasn't credited with a single save for the game as LCFC had 3 shots on target and had 3 goals.

Indy had chances that they missed, including one from Watson in the 89th minute that just crept over the bar and landed in the top netting. Twelve inches lower and Indy would have been celebrating at the end of the game instead of LCFC.

My only objections to Indy's game was, possibly, the substitutions and when those occurred and for whom. Yet even those fell in line with the way that Coach Rennie has been utilizing substitutes at the end of the season. However, within a minute of Pasher scoring the opening goal of the game in the 67th minute, Coach Rennie pulled Conner for Watson, which had the feeling of an offense for defense substitution. It seemed a bit premature to me to begin the Rennie Bunker (TM) at that point in the game. Twenty-two minutes is a long time to defend against a team like LCFC in a win-or-go-home scenario, even for this team.

I also question the Novoa for Kelly sub in the 83rd minute. Though, again, the time and substitution was in line with recent patterns. I just felt that the things that Kelly was doing well for the team at the time could not be achieved by Novoa and it also pushed Pasher further back into the Bunker. Novoa does not have Kelly's size to be able to stay up top and bring a ball down with defenders on his back. He can run around like a madman trying to disrupt LCFC's defenders, but I didn't think that was what would have helped ride out the remaining minutes of the game.

When it comes to playoff soccer, it's not always the better team that wins. Sometimes, it's not even the better team on the day that wins. It's the team that makes good on their chances and for this game, that was Louisville City.

It does disappoint me that the Eleven spent all season creating a home field advantage in Lucas Oil Stadium only to see that advantage go out the roof because the stadium had already been reserved for other users. Notably one that I believe wasn't even using the facility for the NYRBII game, but has a clause that limits users to a certain duration ahead of their use. Carroll creates a great atmosphere particularly with so many traveling fans, but the weather and the turf affected the game and took away some of that home field advantage. Whether anybody in the team will publicly admit it, playing at Carroll Stadium was not an advantage. There's my little plug for an increased desire for Eleven Park because Indy could find themselves in this exact same situation every year until they have their own stadium.

The Game Beckons Game Ball

Ouimette gets the Game Beckons Game Ball in the loss. It's like losing twice for him...


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